Part 12: Short Essay for Level 12
So, where to begin, where to begin? There's a lot dropped on us with this level, and while it would be tempting to explain the biggest thing, in the end, I think I'll start with the level layout.
The Science Prison is a very straightforward level. We advance down the middle, turn left to backtrack along the left side of the building, pass under the first room to the right side, then advance again towards the back to reach the end goal. The vertical aspects to the level design don't really do much to hide that simple fact.
It reminds me a lot of the layout of the second level, where I lambasted it for poor use of space. However, unlike that one, which committed the sin of returning to the start point, this level keeps us going forward into new areas. I like that, really. And that each area is new and has a different aesthetic to it, from the cold clinical Cryochamber rooms, to the medical labs to the biohazard disposal room. This chance in scenery helps the level, rather than being drab office space.
The lasers, despite what you may think from my commentary, are not all that bad. Thankfully, this game doesn't abuse them, nor the alarm consoles. It's refreshing when the game treats the enemy actors as the real threat, and not the environmental hazards.
Speaking of the environment, how many times did people play this game before they realized that there were actual people in the cryopods? I know I missed them on my first playthrough all those decades ago. I was trained by the game to ignore the environment unless it was 'active', as everything else wasn't worth looking at. It was only on my second go that I finally noticed them.
I mean, hell, we're told at the start of the level that the Doctor is touring the Pod Wing. What sort of pods are there? Well, now we know.
Of course, given that Kerr has the equipment to monitor and analyze the Chrysalis just standing by, I now have to wonder - how many of these people are the victims of experiments gone wrong?
And so we come to the elephant in the room, and the MacGuffin of the game. What is the Daoden Chrysalis?
Kerr's description is wrong, or rather it's incomplete so that the audience and Konoko can process it. The Chrysalis has its roots in the death of Jamie Kerr, and the rapidly mutating plant/toxin/infection that Doctor Hasegawa couldn't fight. What he saw was that the outside world was a rapidly changing, rapidly mutating death world, one that was one blown Processor away from pushing humanity over the brink.
And so, if you can't fight them, join them.
The Chrysalis is, as Kerr said, derived from the host organism. What he didn't tell Konoko, because it wasn't relevant, was that there are several factors that can help determine the effectiveness of the Chrysalis. First, is how in-tune it is with the host. For Konoko and Muro, their symbiotic organisms were effectively custom made for the both of them by their father, ensuring that the Chrysalis was as optimized as possible for the two of them. In addition, the younger you are when you get it, the longer it has to work, and the more the body grows as it grows up, the more the Chrysalis grows with it.
These are Prime Symbiotes, and are the best you can get, albeit the ones with the most effort and resources put into making them. In theory, both the Syndicate and the TCTF can make more Primes, but the time involved is just too much. They are both on the clock, so to speak.
The next step down are Secondaries. These, we have seen in Mukade, the Super Ninja from two levels ago. These Second Generation symbiotes are not as finely tuned to their host as the Primes, but they tend to be given to adults and as such, don't bond as well or develop with the host over time. There's a limit to how much they can do, and it can be quickly reached.
The last type are the mass produced versions. Not really tuned, they are there to basically act as a souped up immune system with minor regenerative powers. The Syndicate is making these as fast as they can, and whenever you see an enemy glow with power, it's because they have one of these and are pushing themselves to the limit for something Konoko can roll her shoulders and pull out without effort at all.
But what is it? What does it do?
Well, I'm no Doc Roanoke (you should watch his channel by the way, he's an actual microbiologist who breaks down how monsters in video games and movies would work in reality, and how they couldn't), but I can tell you a few things from the game and from comments made on old forums back in the early 2000's.
The Chrysalis acts as a sort of macro-scale Stem Cell generator. As the body is damaged either through external forces or environmental pressures, the Chrysalis takes in the information that the body is sending about the damage in question, and then starts to produce replacement parts that are customized to respond against that sort of damage.
So, Konoko breathes bad air? Her lungs are changed to better react to the changing atmosphere. She gets injured in training? Her skin gets tougher, her muscles stronger and her bones more resilient. Bleeding? Faster blood production from the marrow and faster clotting and healing in general.
All this, based on the sheer speed of the thing that killed Jamie Kerr.
But the effects are cumulative. The Chrysalis remembers what has caused harm before, and when new harm comes, it keeps the old stuff in play, like how our immune system doesn't forget how to fight off one thing when something else comes into play.
So, the younger you are when you are implanted, the longer and more stress the body undergoes, allowing for the Chrysalis time and experience to better itself and the host in a mutual survival advantage.
You know what this reminds me of? I went into this LP with the intent of making no reference to Stratfyre's old LP of it, save to recognize that it exists and that he fights with a different style than I do. However, there is one thing that I feel I think he missed in his sass of Konoko and her inspirations for her design and actions.
You see, she's also Nausicaä, in that she's adapt(ing) to the post-apocalypse world in which that which we know as humanity is doomed.
Konoko, from a comment later in the game, was implanted with her custom Chrysalis at age 7. She was rescued by Kerr and taken in by the state as a Ward at age 3 according to the manual, but her current age isn't known. That means that Kerr had four years to customize her Chrysalis before Griffin forced the implanting, only to regret it later on. But by then, it was too late. She had already bonded with her symbiote far more effectively than anyone could have foreseen, and removal was no longer an option.
Faced down with a multitude of bad choices, Griffin ordered the creation of Shinatama, an SLD based on Konoko to better monitor her progress. The thing is, the Chrysalis is hilariously immature as a technology, and no one, not even Doctor Hasegawa, has any clue how far the Chrysalis will change or mutate its host in order to survive.
Kerr's comment that Konoko will never really change, that she will always be true to herself?
That her Chrysalis has gone far beyond his expectations and predictions is something Kerr never really accounted for. At this point, all he could do is hope and pray that Konoko retains enough of her mental self that she doesn't go down the path Muro is gleefully dancing along.
So, I can now say in non-spoilers what I said long ago about the BEST GUN. The Mercury Bow was developed specifically to try and kill people with the Chrysalis. The combination of high-velocity kinetic impact, cryogenic damage - something the TCTF knows can slow down the healing process as it's still organic in nature - and the heavy metal poisoning from the slug of mercury was all intended to overload the Chrysalis and prevent it from healing the host. Or at least slowing them down long enough for proper restraints or a more permanent solution could be applied.
That's why Kerr (stupidly) threw himself into the way of the shot. He knew that this was the only weapon capable of practically harming Konoko, and he was still trying to protect her, to the last.
His emotional response was one of the things he had in common with Konoko, something that connected them together. Or I would say that if this was literally the only level in which the two spoke to each other.
Which is why I wanted to see them interact before Konoko went off to rescue Shinatama. To help establish their relationship and to emphasize this one a bit more or better.
Konoko's escape plan was risky, even for her. By dumping herself into the acid vats, and avoiding the mechanical grinders, she was basically gambling that the Chrysalis would react to the extremely strong acid and protect her by growing new skin that could resist it.
All she would have to do, would be to close her eyes, plug her ears and nose, and hold her breath for who knows how long. I can't imagine how that must have felt. After all, what's a little pain in the body compared to the pain of knowing that everyone who ever cared for you is dead? And if she's going to have revenge, there's one person at the top of the list, above even her Brother.